John Martyn - Solid Air (Vinyl)

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Iain David McGeachy OBE (11 September 1948 – 29 January 2009), known professionally as John Martyn, was a British singer-songwriter and guitarist. Over a 40-year career, he released 23 studio albums, and received frequent critical acclaim. The Times described him as "an electrifying guitarist and singer whose music blurred the boundaries between folk, jazz, rock and blues".[2]

Martyn began his career at age 17 as a key member of the British folk music scene, drawing inspiration from American blues and English traditional music, and signed with Island Records. By the 1970s he had begun incorporating jazz and rock into his sound on albums such as Solid Air (1973) and One World (1977), as well as experimenting with guitar effects and tape delay machines such as Echoplex.[3] He struggled with substance abuse and domestic problems throughout the 1970s and 1980s, though he continued to release albums while collaborating with figures such as Phil Collins and Lee "Scratch" Perry. He remained active until his death in 2009.

 



Solid Air is a good example of a record's mood winning over its songs. With a few notable exceptions, the songs aren't the strongest, but the mood conjured by their cumulative effect is strong and convincing. There are other things on the album - a saxophone and some pianos, for example - but the sound is dominated by a warm and full production (with thanks especially to the bass of Pentangle's Danny Thompson, I think) and by Martyn himself; by his delicately picked guitar and laid-back, near-slurred singing voice. The result is kind of like 70s British folk filtered through jazz - quiet, reflective and smoky. It is not an album you could imagine listening to in strong sunlight.

Not that there aren't songs that stand out - the title track, Martyn's song for his friend Nick Drake, is first class from start to finish. "Don't Want to Know" is good too, as is of course "May You Never", a little ode to friendship that became the one song anyone knows by John Martyn if they know anything of him at all, and which has potential to get stuck in your head in ways which frankly no song on an album this relaxed has a right to. Standing out for the wrong reasons on the other hand is his version of Skip James' aggressive blues "I'd Rather Be the Devil", which isn't exactly bad but seems violently out of place, and in any case is without a good reason for being six minutes long.

It is good more often than it is not, though.


Side one

"Solid Air" – 5:45
"Over the Hill" – 2:53
"Don't Want to Know" – 3:02
"I'd Rather Be the Devil" (Skip James) – 6:18
Side two

"Go Down Easy" – 3:35
"Dreams by the Sea" – 3:17
"May You Never" – 3:41
"The Man in the Station" – 2:53
"The Easy Blues" – 3:20


 

Companies, etc.
Mastered At – Sterling Sound
Printed By – MacNeill Press Ltd.
Phonographic Copyright ℗ – Island Records Ltd.
Produced For – Witchseason Productions Ltd.
Recorded At – Island Studios
Recorded At – Sound Techniques, London
Published By – Warlock Music Ltd.
Pressed By – EMI Records
Credits
Bass – Dave Pegg
Congas – Speedy (Neemoi Acquaye)*
Double Bass – Danny Thompson
Drums – Dave Mattacks
Engineer, Producer – John Wood
Piano, Organ, Clavinet – Rabbit*
Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Producer – John Martyn
Notes
Issued in a gatefold sleeve printed by MacNeill Press Ltd., London S.E.1
Stating in purple print on the inside: 'Love - Nuff Said'

"Pink Rim" Island labels have the Witchseason Productions logo on the right.

All songs Warlock Music Ltd. except A4 MCPS.

Recorded at Island and Sound Techniques Studios November/December 1972.
Speedy (Neemoi Acquaye) appears courtesy of Mercury Records.